Bangkok, Thailand – Hiroshige Seko, Japan’s minister of Economy, Trade and Investment, was in Bangkok on Tuesday 12 to sign several contracts concerning investment across several sectors.
‘Details of an agreement on RCEP (regional comprehensive economic partnership) have been reached recently between myself and the Thai commerce minister, and we will propose them to the RCEP summit at the end of this year.’ Seko told a press conference.
RCEP refers to the ASEAN plus six negotiations which could lead to free trade between the ten countries of ASEAN and Japan, China, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
Thailand’s deputy prime minister Somkid Jatusripitak invoked China’s recent investment in high-speed rail across ASEAN and especially its activity in Thailand.
‘China has already started investing in a rail project to link southern China to ASEAN. It is now the appropriate time for Japan to lend support to developing the rail link from the east to the west of ASEAN.’
China’s key focus has been on a north to south railway cutting down through Laos and Thailand whereas Japan has expressed potential for an east to west railway that would link Vietnam to India via Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.
In related news, the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) has signed a cooperation contract worth $157 million with some Chinese state enterprises for the Bangkok to Korat high-speed rail.
The contracts concern engineering design and the hiring of Chinese technical advisers.
Other announcements from Thailand included the signing of contracts worth a combined $370 million for two sections of the Prachuap Khiri Khan-Chumphon double-track railway which will run north to south down the peninsula.
KS-C, a joint venture between KS Joint Venture and China Railway 11th Bureau Group, won the concession for the 167 kilometre first section. STPP, a joint venture between Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction (STEC) and Thai Picon & Industry, won the contract for the second section.
Meanwhile plans are being prepared for a Thai-Japanese high-speed railway project running from Bangkok to the northern city of Phitsanulok.
Transport minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith estimates the project will cost $8.2 billion. The 380 kilometre route would eventually be extended to Chiang Mai. After the Thai government discusses the plans the Japanese government will submit a research report that will breakdown the costs into more detail.